Lisa Reihana - Wellington's Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts

Andre Chumko, Stuff Magazine, September 1, 2021

The Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts​ is back and ready to take audiences on voyages to the future while connecting them to their histories, the whenua and spiritual realms.


The biennial Wellington-based festival is the country’s biggest celebration of cutting-edge arts experiences, offering free and ticketed events across creative disciplines including theatre, dance, visual arts, literature, music, opera and more.


“Our aim was to create an extraordinary festival for extraordinary times,” festival executive director Meg Williams said.


That included having extended seasons of some experiences running across the summer months, more large-scale Kiwi-made experiences than ever before, and the appointment of artist-in-focus Lisa Reihana​, who is bringing a major series of free works to the festival.


The festival programme had been adapted for Covid-19, with many experiences able to go ahead under alert level 2, Williams said.


Reihana, the festival’s headline artist, works across media including sculpture, film, costume, body adornment and photography. Her art often offers commentary on Māori history and identity.


She represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2017 with her large-scale video installation in Pursuit of Venus [infected]. For the first time in Aotearoa, the final version of the work is being presented as part of the festival, at Te Papa, from October 15 to April 25, 2022.


The art experience is supported by Weta Digital, and is part of Reihana’s wider programme of free installations across the region, which will run throughout the festival.


“Her work explores our stories and history in a way that is engaging for new audiences and for our rangatahi. We are thrilled to bring in​ Pursuit of Venus [infected] back to Aotearoa to celebrate this internationally-renowned work,” said Mere Boynton, the festival’s ngā toi Māori director.

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